- Title: Iraq's Marsh Arabs sell cherished buffaloes to fend off coronavirus crisis
- Date: 28th June 2020
- Summary: CHEBAYESH MARSH, DHI QAR PROVINCE, IRAQ (JUNE 19, 2020) (REUTERS) WOODEN BOAT DRIVING TOWARDS SUNRISE THROUGH MARSHES WATER BUFFALOES IN DEEP WATER WATER BUFFALOES WALKING THROUGH SHALLOW WATER BUFFALO ARRIVING ON SHORE AND WALKING PAST BOY, JAAFAR ISMAEEL, WHO IS LIGHTING UP CAMPFIRE ISMAEEL HOLDING KETTLE OVER FLAMES WHILE KNEELING IN FRONT OF FIRE WATER BUFFALOES GATHERING ON DRY LAND AS SUN IS RISING ISMAEEL AND FATHER, ISMAEEL KHALIL, LETTING BUFFALO OUT OF PADDOCK (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SON OF LOCAL BUFFALO OWNER ISMAEEL KHALIL, JAAFAR ISMAEEL, SAYING: "The buffalo is very dear to me. When an animal falls ill, I worry a lot. Especially when that particular buffalo has been staying with us for a long time." VARIOUS OF ISMAEEL MILKING BUFFALO BY HAND (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SON OF LOCAL BUFFALO OWNER ISMAEEL KHALIL, JAAFAR ISMAEEL, SAYING: "In the morning, we milk them, and we sell the milk. Then, I get on a boat and go get fodder. I bring it back to them and when they are hungry, they eat some fodder." ISMAEEL MILKING BUFFALO BY HAND YOUNG GIRL CARRYING BUCKET OF MILK AND WALKING AMONG BUFFALOES BUFFALOES MOOING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LOCAL BUFFALO OWNER, ISMAEEL KHALIL, SAYING: "They are our source of income, they are our bread. We don't have any other job; they are our profession." KHALIL MILKING BUFFALO BY HAND (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LOCAL BUFFALO OWNER ISMAEEL KHALIL, SAYING: "We have been harmed a lot by the coronavirus epidemic. The prices of buffaloes dropped and our milk production collapsed because of the curfews [restrictions on internal travel]. We are also unable to bring fodder. We really got harmed." KHALIL WALKING AWAY WITH BUCKET OF MILK AS BUFFALO CALF RUNNING TOWARD HIS MOTHER TO DRINK HIMSELF VARIOUS OF KHALIL WALKING TOWARD PADDOCK AND PUTTING MILK INTO CONTAINER MAN ON WOODEN BOAT (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) MILK TRADER, SADIQ MOHAMMED, SAYING: "We bring milk from the marshes, from the buffalo breeders. And we sell it in Qurna, al-Mijir and other provinces. Nowadays, no one buys milk. So, we only take a very small quantity of milk." JOURNALIST ASKING: "Because of what?" "Because of the coronavirus." MILK POURED FROM LARGE BUCKET INTO PLASTIC CONTAINER MAN HANDING PLASTIC CONTAINER OVER TO MOHAMMED MOHAMMED ROLLING CONTAINER ONTO BACK OF PICKUP TRUCK (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LOCAL BUFFALO OWNER ISMAEEL KHALIL, SAYING: "Now we have started to sell our cattle to make a living. It has been four months that we are relying on the sale of our herd. Our production has come to a halt. On top of this, the price per head of cattle is lower than before. But we started selling our animals to buy tomatoes, meat, and other things." BUFFALO MOOING IN WATER VARIOUS OF ISMAEEL WALKING WITH BUFFALOES IN WATER ISMAEEL'S SISTER PADDLING ON WOODEN BOAT AND ISMAEEL JUMPING INTO IT AS IT PASSES BY (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SON OF LOCAL BUFFALO OWNER ISMAEEL KHALIL, JAAFAR ISMAEEL, SAYING: "If the Sayyed [his father] wants to sell it [this buffalo], he will see me sad and will know how much I love it. He will abandon the idea of selling it." BOAT DRIVING AWAY IN SUNSET FOLLOWED BY SWIMMING WATER BUFFALO WOODEN BOAT WITH LOCALS SPEEDING THROUGH MARSHES BIRD IN SHALLOW WATER TIMELAPSE OF WOODEN BOAT MOVING IN MARSHES
- Embargoed: 12th July 2020 11:45
- Keywords: Ahwar Coronavirus crisis Economic crisis Herders Iraq Marshes Milk production UNESCO Water buffalos Wetland
- Location: CHEBAYESH MARSH, IRAQ
- City: CHEBAYESH MARSH, IRAQ
- Country: Iraq
- Topics: Society/Social Issues
- Reuters ID: LVA001CKA9PP5
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: "The buffalo is very dear to me", says Jaafar Ismaeel, standing next to a young animal eating fodder from a bag tied around its neck.
Like every morning, Jaafar woke up at dawn in his home in the Chebayesh marsh in southeastern Iraq, lit a campfire and drank his tea by the shore, surrounded by his family's buffaloes.
His family usually lives on the income provided by the buffalo milk and yogurt they sell to local traders who dispatch most of it outside of the marshlands and even beyond the Dhi Qar province where the Chebayesh marsh is located.
But with the restrictions on internal travel imposed by authorities to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, the demand for milk decreased and so did milk prices, local marsh Arab, Ismaeel Khalil, said after milking his animals by hand and storing their milk in a large container.
Before the outbreak of the crisis, 30 litres of milk would sell for $28. They now only get around $12 and fail to sell all of their daily production.
It has been four months that Khalil, unable to cover his family's basic needs anymore, resorted to selling animals, like many other herders in his community.
But the price per head of cattle has also gone down since the coronavirus crisis, forcing the family to sell their cherished animals at a loss.
The area has been home to the so-called Marsh Arabs for millennia, water being essential to maintaining their way of life.
Traditionally, Marsh Arabs were divided into two main occupational groups, water buffalo herders and farmers.
Saddam Hussein accused the area's inhabitants of treachery during the 1980-1988 war with Iran and later drained the marshes - which before then had stretched across more than 3,700 square miles (9,583 sq km) - to flush out rebels.
Many residents fled, but after Saddam's overthrow in 2003, parts of the marshland were reflooded and Marsh Arabs cautiously trickled back.
The marshes were declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2016.
So far, the coronavirus has caused 1,660 deaths and infected 43,262 people in Iraq, according to figures published by local health authorities on Saturday (June 27).
(Production: Mohammed Aty, Mohammed Katfan, Charlotte Bruneau, Mai Shams Eldin)
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